Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have called the current military suicides an epidemic. The problem is about military personnel having experienced more than ten years of combat, of war in Afghanistan and Iraq only to come home and find that due to budget cuts, jobs in the military are being cut.
Some individuals may join the military to associate themselves with a large institution that gives a sense of security almost like a family or even a substitute for a distant or absent father figure. In early December 2012, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that her amendment requiring the Pentagon to establish a standardized suicide prevention program passed the Senate.
When the rug is pulled out from under the soldier's feet due to job cuts in the military and budget tightening, a type of stress may develop on top of the stress of combat on top of the stress of returning home to find a lack of job opportunities. And life purpose and direction may diminish on top of post-traumatic stress, family issues, and often the lack of security that comes with not having an anchor. The result sometimes are military suicides.
Military suicides are at epidemic levels, reaching a high last year
Military suicides are on the rise, reaching a high in 2012, including military suicides due to stress, injuries, and depression that accompanies post traumatic stress syndrome. Check out the PDF article, "The incidence of suicides of United States servicemembers and initiatives within the Department of Defesne to prevent military suicides." One of the issues with treating military veterans and troops is the retention rate of psychologists and other mental health workers, including nurses who treat the military personnel.
One issue among many is how long are these mental health workers able to be retained? Regarding Clinical Psychologists, the military has what they call "a fill problem" due to retention issues, according to the article, "The incidence of suicides of United States servicemembers and initiatives within the Department of Defesne to prevent military suicides."
High turnover in mental health providers to veterans and military personnel
Why is there such a high turnover in mental health providers to veterans or people still in the military? Pay may be one issue in keeping the same mental health care providers on the job. The authors of the article, which includes a senator, notes that, "special pays will be of significant help in retaining psychologists. Regarding accessions, we bring most psychologists on to active duty through one of three Air Force internship programs."
The article went on to explain, "Historically they have been successful in filling their training authorizations (though some difficulties this year, and 2 years ago). We have increased the number of Health Professions Scholarship Program scholarships for psychologists in an effort to help fill our internship slots."
The average career length (ACL) for mental health providers is as follows:
Time is in Commissioned Years of Service (CYOS)
ACL - Social Worker - 12.78 CYOS
ACL - Mental Health Nurses - 11.22 CYOS 1
ACL - Psychiatrists - 8.78 CYOS
ACL - Psychologists - 5.47 CYOS
Less combat may mean more stress on the home front
More stress at not finding work, a place to live, and health care services is translating to more stress, more than even when the soldiers were in combat, say some of the recent news reports. Members of the military committed suicide at a record rate of almost one suicide per day in 2012. Experts are predicting even higher suicide rates this year, even though the suicides are not happening overseas in the heat of combat.
What's causing the stress of winding down and getting on with life, raising a family, and financial independence or further education for job skills or opening one' own business. Is it a money issue or a stress problem related to brain hormone changes due to combat or exposure to military or combat-related toxins?
Pentagon figures obtained on January 14, 2013 by The Associated Press show 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year, up from 301 the year before and exceeding the Pentagon's own internal projection of 325. The 2012 total is the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking suicides in 2001. It exceeds the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, by the Associated Press's count.
Does the Pentagon deal with suicides compassionately or objectively detached?
There are fewer chances for a person staying in the military for an entire career as could be done generations before. The military is falling prey to defense budget cuts. And veterans may be depressed at the reality of being forced out of uniform and a job.
If there's no money to pay the soldiers, their jobs are over, as if they were fired without a reason, after serving and putting their life on the line during the past decade in combat or related duties.
The number of military personnel jobs is being cut
The soldier of today is not coming back to a career in the military where the individual could rise in rank with years of service and perhaps continue education in military-career related job skills. The security rug has been pulled out from under the soldier's feet. The transition back to civilian life is depressing when there are not enough jobs or affordable educational opportunities to go around. It's the scarcity that's depressing.
A lot of troops planned on a life-long career in military service with its affordable health care plans and opportunities, besides the combat aspect. What's lost is a sense of purpose and passion. There are suicide prevention programs and support groups, for example, but emotionally, many soldiers are still in a danger zone back home when doors to their future aren't opening wide enough.
For further information on support groups, services for families of military personnel who have committed suicide, and services or financial help information for survivors of military personnel who have committed suicide, check out the site, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Also see the site, National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
How Sacramento families can support survivors -- families of military personnel who have committed suicide
Besides offering support groups and grief camps, Sacramento families also can produce personal history/life story highlights journaling or video and multimedia creations to salute our troops and offer support to survivors of family suicides, including helping the close friends of military personnel who have committed suicide work through their grief and find out what they'd like to do to support one another in these times.
These video podcasts or journaling for health might be to help, inspire, and motivate. Salute Our Troops with how-to information on making personal history videos by interviewing the troops, their families, friends, and other veterans with your camcorder and posting the videos on Internet Archive or Google Video for the longer videos of one to two hours, or on uTube for the shorter videos under 15 minutes--with their permission, of course.
Topics might include rites of passage, experiences, life story highlights, turning points, and events. Videos of life story excerpts can be made by the families of the troops to send to them or by the troops on their own life experiences to send to family and friends back home.
Working with wounded warriors projects in Sacramento
The videos are a hearty "thanks" to our nation's Wounded Warriors from Sacramento. Personal history videos and interviews of life story excerpts are memoirs of our warrior's acceptance back into the Sacramento community through re-integration, job placement and at-home care.
You can record video, personal stories, and put photos in keepsake albums, especially digital albums to remember the troops. Here's what you can do to interview others serving with you or with you in military service and beyond to have as a time capsule for friends and family members.
Take the time to tell your experience or a significant event and turning point in your own life story. Every soldier's life story is worth a video, personal history interview, or if you're inclined to write, a biography, skit, or a novel.
Record family personal history and save it to show to surviving children or future grandchildren of the children of veterans in the future. Record support messages and services in pictures so others can share purpose, passion, and plans.
Suicides among women in the military is more than twice that of men
According to a December 1, 2010 study, the suicide rate among young women veterans more than twice that of men. See the December 1, 2010 news release, Suicide rate among young women veterans more than twice that of civilians," young women veterans are nearly three times as likely as civilians to commit suicide, according to research published by researchers at Portland State University (PSU) (Oregon) and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
The paper, "Self-Inflicted Deaths Among Women With U.S. Military Service: A Hidden Epidemic?" appears in the December 2010 issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal published by the American Psychiatric Association. This work is the first general population study of current suicide risk among women who've served in the U.S. military.
Read the study or its abstract, "Datapoints: self-inflicted deaths among women with U.S. Military Service: A Hidden Epidemic? Also check out a related study abstract on young veteran suicide, "Suicide risk assessment and content of VA health care contacts before suicide completion by veterans in Oregon." According to the data, female veterans aged 18 to 34 are at highest risk.
Female veterans aged 18 to 34 are at highest risk of suicide
According to the December 1, 2010 news release, "Women veterans are more likely to complete suicide than nonveteran women," said Bentson McFarland, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine. McFarland co-authored the paper with Mark Kaplan, Dr.P.H., and Nathalie Huguet, Ph.D., of Portland State University. Also see, Suicide rate among young women veterans more than twice that of civilians.
"The rate was lower in the next oldest age group we studied, aged 35 to 44, and the rate was lower still among those aged 45 to 64. However, even within this age group, the rate was higher than civilian women's suicide rates."
"This study shows that young women veterans have nearly triple the suicide rate of young women who never served in the military," said Kaplan, according to the news release. Kaplan is the co-author of the study and professor of Community Health at PSU. "
The elevated rates of suicide among women veterans should be a call-to-action
Training especially for clinicians and caregivers is needed so the caregivers can be aware of warning signs and helpful prevention resources such as the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline."
Check out the site, Sacramento Valley Veterans - Resources: Mental Health Services. See, The Soldiers Project: The Soldiers Project is a private, non-profit, independent group of volunteer licensed mental health professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, registered nurses and marriage and family therapists. We provide free counseling and support to military service members who have served or who expect to serve in the Iraq and/or Afghanistan conflicts and to veterans of those conflicts.
The research, funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, tracked suicide data in the 16 states that constitute the National Violent Death Reporting System , a program within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also see, [PDF] National Violent Death Reporting System Coding Manual Version 3.
You may want to check out the article, "Struggling to serve women vets," Sacramento Living, Sacramento. Nationally, about 150,000 veterans have committed suicide since the end of the Vietnam War. Also see the article, "Suicide among military service members is on the rise - Sacramento."
Three veteran generations
You're looking at three veteran generations: Vietnam veterans born in the 1940s, veterans born in the 1960s or early 1970s in the first Gulf War of the early 1990s, and veterans born in the mid- to late1980s, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and similar areas.
To see one source of the Vietnam veterans' suicide statistics, check out the World Almanac 1994, Funk & Wagnalls, NY: 956. What percentage of that applies to women veterans in Sacramento, ages 18-34, who are recent veterans, young, and in search of a future?